Making HR fit for its real purpose

East Cheshire NHS Trust HR service is transformed to deliver cost savings, better support and improved organisational performance.

Background: a pioneer in HR shared services

In April 2013, Arvato UK acquired the Cheshire HR Service (CHRS) as part of a four-year contract with East Cheshire NHS Trust to provide professional and transactional HR services to the Trust, its current customers, and other NHS and public sector organisations. 

Under the framework agreement, Arvato has delivered immediate cost savings and plans to attract new clients that realise longer term financial benefits. 

Established in 2006, CHRS was a pioneer in HR shared services. Staffed by HR consultants, administrative professionals, and learning and development specialists, it is highly experienced in delivering people management services. 

Recently, CHRS successfully launched a range of workforce management and information systems that help organisations to manage their workforce effectively and efficiently, reduce time spent on HR administrative tasks and increase capacity for strategic activities.

Challenge: to be more efficient and strategic

In 2004, The Gershon Report into public sector back office services stated that there was the potential to save up to £1bn nationally and that more than half of the HR function could be operated as a shared service. 

Within this context of back office efficiency savings, East Cheshire NHS Trust and its partner organisations were also experiencing a number of factors driving them to consider a new model of HR alongside their NHS partners. Externally, there were changes to commissioning structures, the roll out of electronic staff record across the NHS that created a single platform for HR transactions, and increased monitoring of HR indicators. Internally, there was a need for more strategic HR, improved HR processes and technology, and higher satisfaction with the HR service. Multiple sites and disparate HR functions compounded the challenges.

Under Arvato’s leadership Cheshire HR Service will enhance service offerings, drive efficiencies and deliver significant cost savings for East Cheshire NHS Trust underpinned by investment in technology.

John Wilbraham, Chief Executive, East Cheshire NHS Trust

Solutions: to tailor and tier the HR service

Arvato developed a new shared services model of HR for East Cheshire NHS Trust and its partners that harmonised the HR service and provided a single point of contact for all HR customers. 

This new HR model recognised that HR was not just about performing administration functions but should contribute strategically and operationally to organisational performance. 

A three-tier HR support service was introduced, comprising: the HR Direct online platform providing 24/7 access to key HR information, i.e. policies, procedures, checklists, guidelines and frequently asked questions; a HR telephone and email helpline offering advice by trained, dedicated HR staff; and HR and learning and development specialists for more complex HR/workforce issues who are experts in their field i.e. employment relations, employee, resourcing. 

As a result, both HR Business partners and managers were released from administrative and operational HR tasks to focus on the strategic priorities of the Trust’s workforce. 

Technology was also upgraded, including introduction of a single employee access portal and data entry, and enhanced HR reporting. This better workforce information enabled management to manage the workforce more effectively and maximise employee productivity. 

Successes: created savings and higher satisfaction


Delivered 7-10% efficiencies for the Trust year-on-year, amounting to cost improvements and savings of £2m over a four-year programme.


Raised customer satisfaction significantly with the HR service – in a 2014 an East Cheshire user survey said that 99% of customers rated the HR service to be good or very good.


Achieved recognition of how our technology has supported the transformation of HR Services – HPMA Excellence in HRM Awards 2013 - CIPD Award for best improvement of HR capability in a team.

Increased confidence and capability of HR managers in their people management through greater insights into the workforce and more time to concentrate on strategy.

Services: comprehensive HR offering tailored to each client

  • HR strategy and consultancy
  • Electronic staff record
  • Resourcing
  • Employee relations
  • Learning and development
  • Payroll
  • Workforce management and information systems
  • Health and wellbeing
  • ICT systems support
  • Financial management